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The North African Cookbook

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by Jeff Koehler
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This book’s focus is the Maghreb, that part of North Africa that is not Egyptian: Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya, a region which was defined centuries ago as the land where people eat couscous.

Jeff Koehler, a James Beard Award winner who has been traveling in this part of the world for more than two decades, begins The North African Cookbook with a detailed and careful exploration of the region’s history, culture, and geography. From the indigenous Berbers to the Phoenician seafarers who founded Carthage, and from the Ottoman Empire to European colonialism, he traces overlapping influences which have contributed to a rich culinary history.

Koehler’s headnotes identify the countries from which recipes are drawn, and often take pains to point out the wide variations in the ways in which dishes are typically prepared. 

We could quibble with the lack of Arabic recipe names, and lament the lack of indexing which would allow cooks to identify, say, all the Libyan recipes (especially since Libyan cookbooks are nearly non-existent in English).

On the other hand, it’s easy to open this book to recipes which don’t appear in many more cursory North African books. For example:

  • Rutabaga salad with bitter oranges and harissa from Tunisia
  • Rice with liver, raisins, and almonds from Libya
  • Stewed rabbit with new potatoes from Algeria
  • Cuttlefish tagine from Morocco

It’s also encouraging to see a bibliography which cites books published in eleven different countries.

Hardcover. Color photographs throughout.  468 pages.

Published: May 17, 2023

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